Review: If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler, by Italo Calvino
I borrowed Italo Calvino’s <i>If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler</i> after someone referred to it in a comment on a Hardcore Literature Book Club discussion.
After listening to Jefferson Mays read the first chapter, my wife (who was sitting in the kitchen) and I were rolling with laughter. The descriptions of getting into the proper position to read a book and the bookstore trip to acquire said book were that funny. And, boy, did the bookstore trip resonate with us, Marc, Lisa, and the folks from tonight’s Virtual Silent Book Club, although Marc and I came up with a couple of categories he missed.
From there, the book sobers up — kind of. The book is purchased; the Reader gets it home and finds that the book he has is NOT the book that the cover says it is. So the next day, he goes back to the bookstore and finds out that the publisher had somehow screwed up the print run. The owner replaces the book and points out another customer with the same problem. The Reader strikes up a conversation with her, and they exchange phone numbers. They compare notes the next day and find that it has happened again. This triggers a search for either of the missing texts, but every time they think they have found one, it turns out to be wrong — and incomplete. The search gets more and more complicated. What keeps you going during this ride is waiting to see a) if they ever get the text of the first book, and b) just how many books do they have to start over the course of the search. The search takes the Reader to some very odd places, and his experiences vary from comical to scary, but things move along well, and the book is satisfying.
My initial response to this was, “How the heck did I miss reading any of this guy’s stuff?” followed by, “I need to add as much of his stuff as possible to the YBR list.” If you are not familiar with his work, you might just have the same reactions.